Every book can be profitable

2 min read

There’s two bits that I want to emphasize from yesterday’s (quickly written) bit about e-book numbers. This is the first; the second (prompted by a very cogent comment by Joe Konrath) will be tomorrow.

Digital publishing means that far more people can create books than ever before – and do so profitably.

This is a simple, four-point thing:

1. Not everyone will succeed. So it goes. Having a press doesn’t guarantee readers.
2. There will be a lot of crap out there. Then again, I think there’s a lot of crap out there now. Gatekeepers are flawed.
3. But here’s the key: your definition of crap varies from mine.
4. You buy your kind of crap, I’ll buy my kind of crap, and we’ll all be happy.

As I pointed out yesterday, digital publishing means that the break-even point is a hell of a lot lower than it used to be. And really, all the math around book production is a hell of a lot easier. Because the break-even point is lower, “profitable” comes a lot easier than it used to. You can try a lot riskier things and not be out a ton of money.

For example, I could put together an anthology for five to seven thousand dollars. Me. I actually have a plan for this, and have a small press interested. I’m looking for investors – because the book would earn out after only about 500 copies. At that point, the authors would be paid, the investors would be paid back, the editors paid, and every dollar earned after that would get split among the participants.1

I bet I could find five hundred people worldwide who would buy Care Bear slashfic. (I don’t want to, but I probably could.) That would make it profitable. 2 I don’t have to buy it – I could buy zombie romances instead. We can think each other’s tastes are gross – but it doesn’t matter. Publishers and authors don’t have to find mega-hits in order to make money.

Publishers could suddenly have their entire catalog earning money. Yes, they’ll have to get lean. They may not make the same margins that they used to. But that isn’t my problem.3 Maybe they’ll be able to flex and take advantage of the market. Maybe smaller presses or independent authors will do it instead. But it will happen.

You’ve got to be ready.

1 Yes, this is for real. Yes, I think it can be done. And yes, you can be involved – send me an e-mail if you’re interested.
2 Profitable != making enough to live on. But it’s a good start – and neither authors nor publishers should be relying on one single product. (That was a take-home lesson from Jim’s post yesterday.)
3 Insert argument about Manhattan rent here.

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